GOP rep makes provocative case for putting people back to work

There can be no economic normalcy while a pandemic sweeps through the populace. It's a detail some Republican officials continue to resist.
Image: Donald Trump, Trey Hollingsworth, Jim Banks
President Donald Trump is greeted by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., left, and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., second from right, as he arrives at Indianapolis International Airport in Indianapolis, on Oct. 27, 2018.Andrew Harnik / AP file

If the United States continues with its mitigation efforts in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it will save lives. It will also push off the start of a nascent economic recovery.

And according to one Republican congressman from Indiana, that's simply too high a price.

"It is policymakers' decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils," Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth told radio station WIBC-FM of Indianapolis. "It is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these two evils, and we intend to move forward that direction."

The GOP lawmaker added getting Americans "back to work," even during a pandemic, is "the best decision" for most people.

It's really not.

If this line of thought seems at all familiar, it's probably because Trey Hollingsworth isn't the only Republican pushing the line. It was just a few weeks ago, for example, that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested that many American seniors would risk their wellbeing for the sake of economic growth.

"Those of us who are 70 plus, we'll take care of ourselves. But don't sacrifice the country," the Texan argued. Patrick, who recently turned 70, added, "No one reached out to me and said, 'As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?' And if that is the exchange, I'm all in."

As we discussed at the time, this bizarre tradeoff isn't as necessary as some on the right seem to think. A coordinated and effective mitigation effort can "flatten the curve" and save lives, while economic rescue efforts -- from Congress and the Federal Reserve -- can ease the downturn.

But even putting that aside, there's a more fundamental flaw: if we give up trying to slow infection rates, the economy will suffer anyway as more and more of the American workforce falls ill, and hospitals face an impossible onslaught.

Hollingsworth, like Patrick, seems to envision a dynamic in which the economy returns to normal as some Americans succumb to a deadly virus, effectively taking one for the team. But among the reasons that's ridiculous is there can be no economic normalcy while a pandemic sweeps through the populace.